Holy Week at St. Andrew's Church


For the Sake of the World 

Lex orandi; lex credendi.

Praying shapes believing. This phrase is at the heart of the Anglican/Episcopal approach to liturgy and worship. It means that when we worship, we do so not simply as participants with minds and hearts already “made up.” Rather we do so to enter into the mystery of God’s existence so that we might acquiesce to the Spirit’s life-giving, interactive presence at work in us, through us and around us. We do so in hopes of being continually shaped, formed and changed into the people of God for the sake of the world.

This is true every time we gather for worship, but perhaps more so during Holy Week when we commemorate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the liturgies of the Triduum, the three sacred days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter.

From the diaries of pilgrims to the Holy Land and from the sermons and writings of the bishops and teachers of the  early church in the first few centuries of Christianity, we have a fairly good picture of how our Christian forbears celebrated Holy Week. Sources such as these have shaped the current Holy Week liturgies that we celebrate today with all the mysterious, beautiful, and intimate possibilities of encounter with the Holy.

The earliest celebrations of the Paschal Mystery, or Easter, did not involve one singular service during which Christ’s resurrection was the primary focal point, such as we have on Easter Sunday. Nor were the liturgies of the Triduum celebrated as three distinct services. Instead the Triduum was celebrated seemlessly from Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday, to the Great Vigil of Easter. It would have been inconceivable to celebrate the resurrection without also commemorating Christ’s passion and death; their redemptive power was experienced in their indivisible, mysterious, wholeness.

Through this liturgical “package,” Christians experienced and celebrated the mystery of living and dying by hearing and acting the drama of Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection. Through them, their identities were given shape, whereby the Christian character of self-offering, love, servanthood, and “fearless attentiveness” to the suffering world was marked in their minds, bodies and souls through their full participation in these services. Through them, they were called by Christ to live as Christ in the world. What was true for Christians in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago is true for us today. To celebrate Easter is to celebrate and participate in the Triduum, for three days giving ourselves fully to the power of God as Jesus gave himself over to us.

Maundy Thursday
Good Friday 
+ The Easter Vigil

The Rev. Abbott Bailey, rector, St. Andrew’s Church. Sections of this reflection include amended excerpts from “Contemplations on the Liturgical Experience of Holy Week” by the Reverend Dr. Lindon Eaves (1993) and Steven Van Voorhees (2002).